SWMC introduces telemedicine services

February 19, 2016

Southwest Medical Center has launched new stroke and neurology services for Southwest Kansas through partnership with Wesley Medical Center’s WesleyCare Telemedicine Network (WCTN).

This telemedicine service available through SWMC uses robotic technology to connect patients experiencing a stroke or neurological event with an off-site neurologist who can work with an SWMC emergency room physician to diagnose and establish a course of treatment for patients.

“Our team will have 24/7 access to board-certified, stroke-trained neurologists who can help make the best call in medical care for the patient and their family,” Southwest Medical Center Emergency Department director, Jandi Head, RN, explained.Telemedicine Robot

Telemedicine technology uses a mobile robotic cart with an onboard computer, monitor, high-resolution camera, and microphone to simultaneously transmit the audio and video portions of a physician consult.  Patient medical records, including radiology scans performed at Southwest Medical Center, can be accessed by the neurologist. The patient, local provider, and the neurologist can conduct online calls anywhere there is an internet connection.

Telemedicine Program developer and neurologist, Dr. Chris Fanale, stresses that every moment counts when handling a stroke, as damage to the brain worsens with time until treated.

“Having this state-of-the-art telemedicine program puts the stroke specialist instantly in the room with a patient and ER physician.  As a stroke neurologist, I can have a conversation with the patient and family, examine the patient’s ability to move and speak, and even zoom in to assess pupil reactivity. We can talk to EMS and ER staff, and assess monitors and vital signs immediately. There is no other system in the region that is currently offering this level of care to stroke victims.”

Neurology services available through SWMC include consults for first-time seizures, status epilepticus, severe headache, neuro-muscular emergencies, subarachnoid hemorrhage, altered mental status, and sub-acute stroke.

Southwest Medical Center President and CEO, Bill Ermann, says this new telemedicine service helps to provide excellent care for patients close to home.

“Bringing stroke and neurology services to Southwest Kansas using telemedicine allows us to better serve patients’ needs,” Ermann explained. “Southwest Medical Center’s partnership with the neurology group will allow stroke-trained neurologists to decide whether a transfer needs to be made, and in some cases may help to eliminate unnecessary travel and treatment time lost for these patients and their families.”

According to WCTN, there are currently about 200 telemedicine networks, with 3,500 service sites in the United States. More than half of all U.S. hospitals now use some form of telemedicine.